Never Stop Learning: How to Make Learning Part of Your Life

As a student myself, I am “living” the innovation of the new academic world as I straddle both online and traditional learning while finishing my Master’s research project.

Like me, there are many students that complement their on-campus classes with online MOOCs. In my own experience, the outcome has been positive and rewarding. 

But there are some things to take into consideration when pursuing e-learning. Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned:

Understand your needs

The first thing to do when you start on the “online learning” road is to get to know your options. There are many choices for learning and you need to find out which one works for you or offers the type of courses you want to take. Take time to visit websites thoroughly and understand the differences between the types of online offerings that will work best for you and your schedule.

For example, you might want to take a course from a specific university that is only available in Coursera or maybe you really don’t have much time to follow the deadlines and prefer a more independent – work at your own pace course – that Udacity provides.

Also, there are aggregators such as Class Central that list all the available courses in different platforms so that you can have all the courses from different platforms listed with information on the course, the start day and the length. There are also some specific platforms that let you learn WordPress for free or teach you to code.

You will find that programs such as Edx and Coursera are more guided, so you will be required to meet deadlines in order to follow the course; whereas Udacity gives you the option of completing the course whenever you can. Therefore, I suggest you go with Coursera or Edx if you need more structure and with Udacity if time is a problem. Again, It’s a matter of what works best for you but it’s good you find out for yourself.

Allocate enough time

If you enroll in a MOOC, know that it will take time and effort. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that because it’s offered online, it won’t require as much time as attending a physical class. On average, a lesson a week can consume up to 10 hours of time depending on the complexity of the course.

Online courses include writing papers, doing homework and studying for exams. To get the most out of it you need to give it your all. 

When you decide to enroll on a course, make a commitment to finish it. Timelines on coursera, for example, usually run in 7 day periods. Although you can apply to extend a deadline, workload quickly piles up.

And while multi-tasking is not usually a good idea when it comes to learning, you can do stuff while listening to educational podcasts or audio books.

Set up your environment

As soon as you register for your course see if the classwork is available for download. Although your classes will be available for streaming, a lot of the video can be downloaded. For me, it was helpful to set-up folders for each class with sub folders for video and downloads organized by week. 

As soon as your classwork is available, download it. You never know when you might find yourself without a connection and need access to your assignments.

I also recommend taking time to check out the type of tools your professor is using. Are hangouts the norm, or pre-recorded video? Where are your forums located – bookmark them when you find them.

For in-company training, using cloud-based options is a good idea as it usually comes with HD video and effective communication tools that make group learning much easier.

After the course has finished

Ok, so maybe you are thinking: “I put a lot of work into my online classes and finished them, now what?”

Online courses transmit new knowledge which is absolutely valuable on a personal and professional basis. If you have taken an online course and successfully completed it, there are ways you can make it count other than for your own self gratification.

In the case of Coursera, Udacity or Edx, they provide you with a certificate of completion that recognizes the course taken. Now, there are some who argue about the validity of these certificates when it comes to getting something more tangible out of them. Well, you have some options, there are universities that offer MOOCs where you can earn college credit by paying extra.

Coursera, for example, has a feature called the Signature Track, which is a paid option that allows you to attach your identity to your achievements. It is required that you have a webcam and that you connect it during class. By signing up to this paid option, the student can have a more personalized learning experience and is able to obtain a verified certificate at the end of the course.

Correspondingly, another way of getting your time’s worth is by adding your online learning course to your CV and your LinkedIn. On your CV you could just add a section for courses you have taken online and include information on the course, the topics covered and the duration of it. Similarly, on LinkedIn there’s the option where you can add your MOOC as an Independent Course, again including specific information on the content of the course.

No matter how busy we are, there’s always room for self-improvement. Never stop learning!

Image by silviarita from Pixabay